For a review of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,”
It’s been six years since the fourth movie in the amusement park ride- inspired “Pirates of the Caribbean,” that one subtitled “On Stranger Times,” sailed into local theaters.
It was beginning to look like the Disney Studios had keelhauled the franchise leaving Johnny Depp to make such forgettable flops as “The Lone Ranger,” “The Rum Diary,” “Dark Shadows” and “Transcendence.” Out of respect for Depp, the film “Mordecai” will only be known as the movie whose name won’t be mentioned.
Some time opened up in Depp’s schedule and he’s slipped back into his rac-coon-eyes makeup to return to the role of loveable lush Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Right off the bat there’s trouble because the franchise has been loaded with dead men who have been telling tales in the form of ghost pirates and this one is no different. So, the name is a little misleading.
And, that is the biggest clue towhat goes wrong with this fifth adventure on the high seas. Jeff Nathanson’s script is as choppy as an ocean during a hurricane bouncing on waves of bad puns, cheap jokes, convoluted family matters and a sea myth that makes as much sense as taking a woodpecker on a canoe ride. Nathanson strains to create emotional moments and has the same number of problems giving Sparrow anything fresh to say.
T his is a summer movie where the design is supposed to be 98 percent action, 1 percent writing and 1 percent trying to come up with ways to make the 3D version have enough moments to make the film worth the extra cost. Too much time was wasted on the writing and 3D ideas and that keep getting in the way of the movies fun moments.
“Dead Men” features several high- energy action scenes staged by directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg ( who have only minimal experience with feature films).
One sequence that includes dragging an entire building through the streets of St. Martin has the kind of fast and furious look that has become the hallmark of summer movies. Any momentum from that spectacular scenes gets lost when Nathanson tries to piece together all of the bits and pieces of ideas that went into the plot.
It would have helped if Nathanson had narrowed the cast of players. Sparrow is being chased by a young man trying to save his father from a sea curse, a female astronomer who everyone things is a witch, the grumpy Barbossa ( Geoffrey Rush), the ghostly sea captain Salazar ( Javier Bardem) and most of the British navy. There’s a sequence on an island where Sparrow is forced into a shotgun ( or would it be shots word?) wedding. All that’s missing is a guest appearance by “The Guardians of the Galaxy.”
No cheap laugh is ignored. When Carina Smyth ( played with spunky vigor by Kaya Scodelario) tells the crew of pirates that she’s a horologist, they don’t appreciate her skill with watches but assumes she makes a living with the world’s oldest profession. Sadly, her energy is never channeled into enough good to give the film the strong female lead it needed. Also, the forced romance between her and Will Turner ( Brenton Thwaites) never shows the kind of sparks Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley showed during their “Pirate” days.
“Dead Men” shows life when there are big action scenes. If 30 minutes of jumbled mythology and cheesy writing had been cut, the movie would have had an action beat as driving as the heart- pounding score by Geoff Zanelli, who carries on the work done in the previous films by Hans Zimmer. Instead, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” mixes some fun moments with other scenes that leave the production high and dry. At least it’s not nearly as bad as the film whose name shall not be mentioned.
“Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” a Disney Films release, is rated PG- 13 for action scenes, suggestive content. Running time: 135 minutes. ½
No formula for success exists regarding feature films based on late 20th century television shows. There are only odds favoring partial or complete failure. So that’s comforting.
But what about “21 Jump Street” and “22 Jump Street”? Didn’t those movies work? Yes, they did. Especially the first one, which was crude without being brainless, and relentlessly self- referential without pounding the jokes into the ground. Beyond “Jump Street,” let’s see… we’ve gritted our teeth through “The Dukes of Hazzard” and a dozen more, most recently “CHiPs.” And now we have “Baywatch,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron.
The bodies on screen are pretty, which I seem to remember was a selling point of the 1989- 2001 TV series. The movie’s comic instincts, though, are consistently coarse and frequently scrotal. This is what’s good about the R- rated “Baywatch” trailer easily found online. It will help you, the consumer, decide if themovie’s the kind of wringer you want to put your money through.
The plot, of course, is fascinating and multilayered. Briefly: When a murderous stilettoed developer ( Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra) starts flooding the Baywatch waters with drugs in order to drive down real estate values and snap up the land herself, it’s up to superguard Mitch Buchannon ( Johnson), his impetuous Olympian swimmer party- boy recruit Matt Brody ( Efron), ethereal cleav-age-purveyor C. J .( Kelly Rohrbach), Summer( Alexandra Daddario, who Zens her way through the material) and the gang to play crime fighters in addition to lifesavers.
Screenwriters Mark Swift and Damian Shannon cranked out the “Friday the 13th” reboot and “Freddy vs. Jason.” They may well be amusing fellows in real life. But there is scant evidence on screen in “Baywatch,” which wobbles around in terms of tone and style, halfironically, half- sincerely and lets the montages do the heavy lifting. There is, in fact, a heavy- lifting montage pitting Johnson against Efron in displays of musculature. The movie is all preening and very few laughs, though Daddario and Efron have a few moments, and Johnson remains a supremely likable slab of movie star.
The TV show that conquered the innocent cheesecake universe took place in Southern California, along Malibu Beach. The movie is set in Florida though it was shot largely in cost- efficient Georgia. I never thought I’d care much about atmosphere and location filming when it came to a “Baywatch” movie. But with director Gordon shooting various action scenes in and around lagoons and along rather pallid- looking stretches of waterfront, at times the results arem ore akin to an HGTV episode of “Beachfront Bargain Hunt.”
Gordon has made terrible comedies (“Four Christmases,” “Identity Thief”) plus a pretty good entry in the ensemble raunch realm ( the first “Horrible Bosses”). This one washes up somewhere in between.
“Baywatch,” a Paramount Pictures release, is rated R for crude sexual content, language throughout and graphic male nudity. Running time: 119 minutes. ½
Dwayne Johnson, left, and Zac Efron star in the new Paramount Pictures film “Baywatch.”